Friday, 18 October 2013

Total recall?

Product safety is an emotional subject that is being brought up more often nowadays. Since technology and communication keeps on improving, it is no wonder that in the legal world we tend to focus our attention nowadays more on preventing product defaults (therefore, regulating product safety and promoting unsafe product recall) rather than on product liability (regulating consequences of product defaults). Anyone who has heard stories about laptops overheating on their users' thighs (How the heat from a laptop can 'toast' the skin on your thighs) or children choking on toy parts (Two Children's Toys Recalled Due to Choking Hazards) would be happy to hear that yesterday the European Parliament's Consumer Protection Committee adopted two reports on: product safety and market surveillance. These reports aim to contribute to the review of current European product safety rules, by strengthening consumers' information rights and further regulating product safety requirements. (see our previous post: Product Safety in 2013

Some of the introduced by the MEPs changes in the current Product Safety Directive promote a new, voluntary, third-party issued safety label (EU Safety Tested mark) as well as make a label on product's country of origin mandatory, in order to increase transparency.

"Where a good was produced in more than one country, the country of origin will be where it underwent its "last, substantial, economically justified processing or working in an undertaking equipped for that purpose and resulting in the manufacture of a new product or representing an important stage of manufacture"." (Internal Market MEPs tighten up product safety and market surveillance rules)
The MEPs also brought back to the draft the 'precautionary principle' that Commission's Members wanted to remove from the currently binding rules. Pursuant to this principle, some products may need to be removed from the market faster, since consumers are given the benefit of the doubt as to their safety. Another interesting addition is a provision pursuant to which a pan-European database on product-related injuries suffered by consumers would be created. This could make it easier to monitor a product that enters a few different European markets at the same time. It was also suggested to introduce a public EU-wide blacklist that would name all firms that have been 'repeatedly found to have intentionally breached' EU product safety rules.

The vote in the plenary on these two new regulations is planned for December this year. (Interview: how new product rules will improve safety for consumers)

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